And, just like that, it was time to leave.
I had a 3pm ferry to catch and a four-hour drive to get there, so I stopped for one last breakfast with Uncle Jimmy, and whittled away any time I might have had up my sleeve for taking photos, or stopping for a stretch, or (please, no) losing my way, which, granted, is difficult to do with Google Maps.
I regret nothing (I mean, look at the stove setup – he had everything waiting and ready to go). And every episode of ‘Can’t Pay? We’ll Take It Away!’ is an hour well spent.
After passing Glasgow (‘Hi Glasgow! I’m coming to you next time!’ – the talking has stepped up, I’m afraid), and missing the turn onto Erskine Bridge, I soon found myself driving through the Trossachs National Park, alongside the banks of the ‘Queen of Scottish Lochs’, Loch Lomond.
Loch Lomond is the largest loch in Great Britain by surface area (Loch Ness being the largest by water volume), and whilst it may not have a resident monster, it does have a song, The Bonnie Banks o’ Loch Lomond, sung by winsome redheads (I want my own cape! I want my own Scotsman!) and AC/DC alike.
It is utterly breathtaking. I took the first photo down by the shore where the Cruise Loch Lomond boats depart. I jogged down there (you’re welcome), and was later tremendously disappointed that it doesn’t communicate the scale of the area at all.
For the second, I pulled in quickly beside another car on one of the tiny patches dotted along the roadside, wanting to somehow capture how pockets of sunlight punctuate the smatterings of rain, giving this extraordinary light-from-the-heavens effect. I wasn’t successful, unfortunately (story of my life). I wonder if my neighbour was; he was taking photos while his child beelined the water, with mum looking on.
When I finally stretched my legs in Oban, after parking in the ferry queue, the first thing that hit me was the smell of the rain. In Australia, we can sometimes smell the rain, either just before, or in the early moments of a shower, but here, that smell is concentrated, multiplied by at least 10. It isn’t a faint whiff, but is strong and heavy, and hangs in the air, combining with the salty smell of the ocean.
Oban is a picturesque little town, set around a horseshoe bay. It was the setting for the film Ring of Bright Water, which I remember vividly, given it was one of the first videos that appeared in our newsagency back in the early 80s (late 70s?). Oban was also home to an infamous Guy Fawkes fireworks celebration, back in 2011, when a computer glitch caused all the fireworks to be released at once. I include this fact because of how hard it made me laugh.
I really wanted some of that seafood, but didn’t think there was time before the ferry loading.
Now, what to say about the Isle of Mull?
It’s beautiful. Yep, to be sure. But what was distinct about it, initially, is that it also felt deeply still, somehow. I remember looking at the water and thinking, ‘I haven’t seen water that still before’ – but, of course, I have, so I’m not sure why it came to mind. I spotted these casual shipwrecks from the single-lane (with passing areas) track, and risked a driving faux pas to capture them.
My B&B is gorgeous. There are two rooms (I predict more head bumping) that share a small living area. As I was settling in, I could hear music, and followed it to the door of the other room, where I stood for a while and listened.
It was around now that I had to really fight the urge to go back into my room and hole up for the night. I had planned to hit Macgochans for the first night of the Mull Music Festival, but was feeling rather more subdued than that. Plus, there was the steep incline to consider (203 feet – I checked), given I had just spent a week on my bum, smoking and eating big breakfasts.
I’m so glad I did. Meet Tobermory.
I bought fish and chips for dinner, walked along the pier and sat on its edge to eat, accompanied by a couple of (frankly enormous) seagulls.
After an unsuccessful visit to Macgochan’s for a pint, where I sat amongst a wayward dart competition, and a group of twenty-somethings made up of lager and hormones, I wandered around, taking photos. I think I’m winning here.
Later, as I walked back through the town, ready to tackle the ‘hearty walk’ that the locals love to do on the weekends, I saw this fellow pass me, and wondered if he was the neighbour practising his fiddle.
As it turned out, he was all the music festival I needed.